Future Stars: IAMDDB (Sony)

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It’s not even the end of November yet but the 2018 tip lists are already appearing. I suspect these will be more predictable than usual, since many artists have been promoted for the whole year already without breaking the top 10, as the charts have become tough territory for new acts. However, VEVO’s DSCVR did introduce me to some unfamiliar faces, including Mancunian female soloist IAMDDB (which stands for “I am Diana Debrito”). The 21-year-old singer has an edgy look, a fun and feisty personality, and a jazzy hip-hop style. She’s intimidatingly cool and confident, but extremely watchable. Her supporters include US singer Bryson Tiller, who she’s currently touring the UK with, plus BBC Introducing, Radio 1 and 1Xtra. It’s refreshing to see an artist breaking through from the north of England, and I believe the loyalty of the local scene has contributed to the millions of views on videos such as her debut single, Shade. When asked whether she’s signed, she gave a strange answer which I’m reading as: she has her own label, which goes through Sony.

Future Stars: Yxng Bane (Disturbing London)

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Tinie Tempah has reached a comfortably established status in the British urban scene now, which means he’s in a position to bring through the next generation. Rapper/singer Yxng Bane is signed to his label, Disturbing London, and managed by another artist on the roster, G FrSH. He grew up in East London, and takes his name from Bane, the villain from the Batman films. He first attracted attention earlier this year with his dancehall-style remix of Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You, which got millions of views and eventually became an official release. More recently, the 19-year-old has featured on tracks by Yungen and Taya (the former reaching the UK top 10), and released his solo single, Rihanna. His style is categorised as afro-fusion, as it mixes westernised hip-hop sounds with afrobeats and dancehall, taking inspiration from throughout the African diaspora.

Song of the Week: Taylor Swift – Delicate

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe. All my Songs of the Week are featured on my Top of the Poptastic playlist, along with the rest of my faves from 2017.

I’ve only had chance to give Reputation a few listens so far, but one track stood out instantly when I first heard it. Songs such as Look What You Made Me Do and End Game are hard to love, despite their strengths, because Taylor’s efforts to prove her self-awareness are so transparent, and she ends up coming off more self-obsessed than self-deprecating. Although she does make one maudlin reference to her reputation on Delicate (“My reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me”), the track overall feels far more sincere and relatable. The chorus has a real sweetness and even humility. The happy hopefulness and focus on little details hark back to the romantic side of Taylor that made her lyrical style so endearing and escapist on past albums. Musically, it’s in keeping with her current, autotune-heavy sound, but it reminds me of how Muna combine electro-pop with heartfelt songwriting on I Know a Place and If U Love Me Now – in fact, this could have been on their album. If you’re boycotting Reputation cos it wasn’t on Spotify or you didn’t like the singles, I recommend you at least give this one a listen (here or below at 19:25).

Future Hits: The rhyme has to be perfect, the delivery flawless

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Eminem ft. Beyoncé – Walk on Water
  • Fuse ODG ft. Ed Sheeran & Mugeez – Boa Me
  • Dave ft. MoStack – No Words
  • Lil Pump – Gucci Gang
  • Elbow – Golden Slumbers

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly (when I remember) with the next big thing.

Future Stars: Joji (88Rising)

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Like Big Shaq, Joji is another YouTube joker-turned-musician, but his backstory is very different. George ‘Joji’ Miller started out making silly (and often unpleasant) YouTube videos as Filthy Frank, and was one of the originators of the Harlem Shake meme. He also released comedy rap music under the pseudonym Pink Guy. It might seem that the Japanese-Australian social media star simply saw music as another outlet for his comedy, and a way to make a bit more money off his online presence, but he secretly harboured a desire to pursue a serious music career. Now based in New York, he began releasing music as Joji on Soundcloud in 2016, and played his first gig as Joji in May 2017, just months after playing SXSW as Pink Guy. His fans embraced his alt-R&B sound, which he describes as “heartbreak music,” and support came from tastemarker sites like Vice, Pigeons and Planes and Pitchfork. His latest single Will He reached the top 20 on Spotify’s viral chart, closely followed by other tracks from his debut EP, In Tongues. Like Cardi B and Bhad Bhabie, Joji has shown that no matter how you achieve social media stardom, you can use it to launch a music career. It might not be the ideal route, but now he has an audience he never would have found without his history as Pink Guy and Filthy Frank.

Future Stars: Big Shaq (Island)

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Although the UK rap scene is thriving thanks to the rebirth of grime, its stars haven’t really broken the US thus far, so they might not be too pleased that a comedy character is making waves across the Atlantic. Comedian Michael Dapaah is known as Big Shaq or Roadman Shaq, and already has a UK hit on his hands with Man’s Not Hot. The track started out as a freestyle for the Fire in the Booth segment on Charlie Sloth’s 1Xtra show. The performance went viral and its “the ting goes…” section became one of the most popular memes of late summer 2017. There was even a diss track by the original Shaq, basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, and Jeremy Corbyn bizarrely quoted it at the Labour Party Conference. Island gave the 26-year-old Londonder a record deal, he recorded a studio version of the song, and it is apparently the fastest-selling single by a debut artist in 2017 so far. It’s poised to enter the UK Official Chart top 10 this week. The video gained 43 million views in three weeks, and is currently in the top 10 of Spotify’s global viral chart. Big Shaq is just one of Michael’s characters, and he takes inspiration from Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G is an obvious reference point), so I predict a TV show and more novelty singles to come.

Song of the Week: Kelsea Ballerini – Roses

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe. All my Songs of the Week are featured on my Top of the Poptastic playlist, along with the rest of my faves from 2017.

Anyone concerned by the musical direction of Taylor Swift’s new album may like to pretend she’s returned to her country-pop roots and listen to Unapologetically by Kelsea Ballerini. The second album from the 24-year-old Tennessee singer takes inspiration from throughout Taylor’s career, from the Fearless era on High School to the 1989 era on Roses. The latter sounds distinctly similar to Style, but that’s no criticism – it was, after all, one of the best tracks on 1989 (the best was actually Out of the Woods, fyi). The familiarity makes the song instantly catchy and it’s just as uplifting and wistfully nostalgic as Style. I’ve had the chance to see Kelsea live twice in London this year, and I hope to catch her again at next March’s C2C festival.

Future Hits: This beat tastes like lunch

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • N.E.R.D & Rihanna – Lemon
  • David Guetta & Afrojack ft. Charli XCX & French Montana – Dirty Sexy Money
  • MK – 17
  • Migos ft. Nicki Minaj & Cardi B – MotorSport
  • Raye ft. Mr Eazi – Decline

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly (when I remember) with the next big thing.

Future Stars: Rina Sawayama (Unsigned)

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

Two new pop girls in one mailer? I really am treating you this week! Rina Sawayama probably won’t be working with Max Martin or playing the Summertime Ball any time soon, but anyone who’s into the fashion scene and the more quirky side of pop will undoubtedly be hearing a lot about her. Rina moved from Japan to London at age five, and already had a successful career as a model and a degree from Cambridge before launching her foray into music. Although she seems to be unsigned (“seems” is the key word there, as usual!), she was picked to appear in i-D’s new series of personality-driven video features on artists, alongside stars like Lorde and Sam Smith. Her music has a late 90s/early 00s R&B sound, which doesn’t do much for me (I was too busy listening to S Club 7 in those days), but the i-D interview won me over – she’s smart, likeable and geeky in a cool way. Despite the huge popularity of J-pop and K-pop, there is a bizarre lack of Asian artists in western pop. Along with other alt-pop acts such as Sälen and Hayley Kiyoko, it’s great to see Rina boosting their representation, but a global pop superstar from an Asian background is still seriously overdue.

Future Stars: Eves Karydas (Island)

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Island have taken an interesting approach to the challenge of breaking new female pop acts – they seem to be scouring the world for foreign artists with star potential. After signing and developing Danish pop star Sigrid, they’re following the same strategy with Eves Karydas. She previously had a couple of small but enjoyable hits in her home country of Australia, with the tracks TV and Electrical, released under the name Eves The Behavior. Perhaps due to the spelling issue (typing Behavior without the “u” is quite traumatic for us Brits) she switched to her real surname, though Eves isn’t her real first name – she’s actually called Hannah. Her new single There For You is a natural progression from her past singles: more commercial with a more glamorous video, but still cool, youthful and fun. The track makes it easy to compare her to Lorde, Lana and Halsey, or even the latest incarnation of Taylor Swift, but it feels more like an amalgamation of current stars than something derivative. I suspect Eves might just be sharing space with Sigrid on a few 2018 ones to watch lists. Spoiler alert: I’ve already noted her down for mine.